Not All Families Are From the Same Tree
Unfortunately the odds are not in your favor.
Statistics show that second marriages have a 72% chance in ending in divorce which is significantly higher then first marriages. Why is this? Joining your life with another person is challenging enough, throw in some children an ex partner and multiple sets of in laws, you end up in a situation that can often feel impossible and leave you feeling like you have no control over many aspects of your life. There is almost no part of your life that is simple, which is why participating in stepfamily therapy is imperative to a more successful outcome. You will learn to communicate around these very challenging topics and begin to work as a team with your partner instead of being angry that they put you in this impossible situation. You can not control what others do (i.e. an ex spouse), but you can control how you respond and react, but that requires coaching and practice.
Throughout the Stepfamily Therapy process you will learn to:
- Learn effective communications patterns particularly around parenting with your new partner.
- Build a relationship with your stepchildren. This will take time and a lot of patience. Depending on the age of the child it can take up to 4 years for a stepchild to begin to view you as more then a babysitter.
- Co-parent with an ex-spouse. Learn skills to managed your responses and communicated more effectively.
- Parent your mutual child. Learn ways to include step children when a new baby is coming into the family. Explore fears around possible favoritism and/or different rules applying to your mutual child and your step child/bio child.
- Manage discussions around finances. Explore the frustrations that may occur when a significant portion of income is going to another household.
- Understand the process that stepfamilies go through. It can take up to 7 years before a stepfamily gets into its grove. Unfortunately stepfamilies dissolve before hitting this mark. Recognizing that there will be huge peeks and valleys during this time can help when feeling hopeless during a valley.
- Set realistic expectations for your family. Stepfamilies rarely fall instantly in love with one another. Knowing this can help spare your feelings when a stepchild thinks you are fabulous one day and doesn’t speak to you the next.
- Start new traditions and create a shared meaning system. There may be a need to keep some old traditions to help children with transitions. However as this stepfamily begins to take shape it is important that new new traditions are formed.
- Grieve past losses, like previous relationships. The fact that your partner was married before and has a child with another person deviates from that Fairy Tale you may have dreamed of.
- Recognize that divorce is something that happens to children, they did NOT ask for this. While I always want to validate the experience that stepparents go through, I continually come back to the fact that the children are experiencing all this loss too but at a very different cognitive level. The changing of homes, the new familial system that they must navigate and the loss of their original family has significant effects on them. Learning how to hang in there, show empathy and understanding to the stepchildren will make the bond grow, even if it takes 7 years.